We’re in the week after Black Friday and the Christmas countdown in well underway. It’s the time for linguistic festive fun. But before my etymological advent calendar kicks in, I wanted to look into why our Christmas shopping starts off ‘black’.
Now Black Friday is a pretty new practice on this side of the pond but, never one to miss a bargain, this year British shoppers and retailers adopted the convention too. Traditionally, Black Friday falls on the day after Thanksgiving, when millions of US shoppers descend upon the shopping malls and town centres to bag a good buy for Christmas. But Black Friday doesn’t sound like a particularly pleasant day, so where does it come from?
Many think that the name originates from the idea that retailers ‘go into the black’ on the day since their profits increase significantly. However, the Friday is ‘black’ because it is considered unpleasant, at least by those who coined the term, police officers in Philadelphia. Apparently, the traffic caused by the crowds of shoppers plus the football fans heading to the annual Army-Navy football game held in the town was so bad that the day became insufferable.
The first written example comes from 1961 and originally retailers disliked the term because they thought its negativity would put shoppers off. On the contrary, Black Friday has become more popular every year and merchants benefit from the trend by offering various discounts. Since then, several spin-off days have been invented by retailers such as Cyber Monday and Small Business Saturday. In fact, Walmart even started opening its doors to shoppers on the Thursday evening (Thanksgiving Day) and re-labelled the day none other than Grey Thursday.